The Problem Statement
At a time when most activities all over the world have gone virtual, the efficiency of the telecommunications system or the lack of it comes to the fore. With most events and interactions gone virtual while companies have their staff work from home, telecoms services take center stage as an essential corporate and public infrastructure. The demand for better service quality a lot of demand for communication technologies and platforms. The Nigerian telecom’s service quality obviously needs to improve. What role does the Nigeria Communications Commission (NCC) in setting industry standards to ensure quality service?
On the 1st of August 2001, the first GSM service rolled out in Nigeria. This was after a successful Digital Mobile License (DML) auction, the first of its kind in Africa, was conducted in January of the same year by the nation’s telecom regulator, the Nigerian Communications Commission, NCC. Then began what has now termed the telecom revolution in Nigeria. From the 425,000 phones (analog) lines existing prior to 2001, Nigeria telecoms industry presently boasts of more than 150 million active phone lines.
The Policy Solution
The Nigerian Communications Act 2003 was signed into law by the President, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo (GCFR) on the 8th of July 2003 after being passed by both Houses of the National Assembly. The Act strengthens the capacity of the NCC to properly carry out its Regulatory Activities.
The NCC Act was to create and provide a regulatory framework for the Nigerian communications industry and all matters related thereto. Specifically, to:
(a) promote the implementation of the national communications or, telecommunications policy as may from time to time be modified and amended ;
(b) establish a regulatory framework for the Nigerian communications industry and for this purpose to create an effective, impartial, and independent regulatory authority;
(c) promote the provision of modern, universal, efficient, reliable, affordable, and easily accessible communications services and the widest range thereof throughout Nigeria;
(d) encourage local and foreign investments in the Nigerian communications industry and the introduction of innovative services and practices in the industry in accordance with international best practices and trends;
(e) encourage the development of a communications manufacturing and supply sector within the Nigerian economy and also encourage effective research and development efforts by all communications industry practitioners;
(g) protect the rights and interests of service providers and consumers within Nigeria.
NIGAC Constructive Position/Take
To capture and regulate the present challenges facing the sector, there’s the need for reform. The NCC Act 2003, is outdated, in the face of new dynamics. The focus of the Act is on voice calls regulation. There’s a need to cover matters like the telecom market and other services the sector is closely linked to such as media services, technology, and finance. There’s also the need to capture competition in the sector in a revised Act. Regulations are meant to ensure a level playing field among competitors and to allow for proper grooming and integration of new innovations.
The issue of artificially low prices needs to be addressed. Rather than a marketing approach that looks more like a price war, causing operators to price below cost at the expense of quality service, the quality of signal and data services should be the driving force of competition. A model of layers of service quality with, of course, different pricing, would achieve the aims of improved service quality and affordable pricing. This is where regulation comes in. The NCC must raise the bar of requirements in service quality.